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World War 2 Tunnels

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  • Tours of Gibraltar Logo

The World War Two was a tumultuous time for all of Europe and Gibraltar no less. The Gibraltar Private Tours could not be complete without a reference to this critical time in our history when Gibraltar transferred its military force to bear on the Nazis and their allies. The World War Two Tunnels are testament to this effort after the civilian population were evacuated to less conflictive areas of the empire.

While it is true that tunnels were built inside the Rock of Gibraltar from as early as the Great Siege, this was just the start. The need for storage, communications and army accommodation in a place that was safe from bombing was answered by these tunnels, which spanned 55miles (77km) inside the Rock. Although some of that was carried out before the war, the 20th Century saw the biggest such operation, continuing until 1968.

As part of the Gibraltar Rock Tours, visitors will be able to taste what it would be like to live for extended periods in these tunnels with so little ventilation. Tunnelling experts from the Royal Engineers conducted most of the work with the Canadian Army, establishing a military base on the south east of Gibraltar, fearful of an attack from a Spain with Nazi sympathies.

From here all the other tunnels were linked by the Great North Road, a tunnel which is still the longest road in Gibraltar. Around 16,000 troops were stationed in this network complete with telephone system, generating station, water distillation, hospital and ammunition stores. It included Stay Behind Cave, only rediscovered in 1997 because its existence was considered to be so secretive in the event of an invasion.

Tunnelling by the time of the war had advanced significantly from the days of the Great Siege. With advanced diamond drilling they could make 60m (200ft) of tunnels per week by 1942, in conjunction with explosives. But structural difficulties hampered progress and many of those tunnels are now unsafe and have been closed down.

As you can imagine, living in the dark, damp conditions of tunnels was far from pleasant. Even General Eisenhower who was based on the Rock for the invasion of North Africa spoke of the “damp cold-air in block-long passages” and “the constant drip of surface water”. You can relive these times on the Gibraltar Rock Tours with an exclusive peak into this hive of activity that led to the defeat of the Nazis in Europe.